Editor’s Note: It’s not sophomores this week — it’s juniors and seniors. Guest columnists are members of the Irish History and Culture class at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. They write about their trip to Ireland over April vacation.

Ireland — I’ll Be Back

By Troy Small>

For the 2009 April break, 17 students, including myself, had the opportunity to go on the trip to Ireland, hosted by Mrs. Weintraub. It was the best trip I have ever been on, and I’m positive that my fellow classmates have all said the same thing.

On the first day, many of us didn’t know what to expect; cold rainy weather, gloomy gray skies, and lack of sleep made us all think, “Hmm, was this a good idea?” But then our lives suddenly changed for the better. During the next few days we were graced by beautiful weather, wonderful scenery and loads of memories that we will take with us for the rest of our lives.

The thing I liked most about the trip was that we got the best of both worlds. We had the pleasure of being able to stay in the main cities such as Killarney, Galway, Dublin and Blarney, but at the same time we were able to see the glorious countryside of Ireland. The country is remarkable, everything’s green, all the flowers were blooming and, although the country is modern, it looks like it hasn’t changed in centuries.

We saw a donkey sanctuary, the town of Killarney and the Blarney Castle, but by far my favorite part was seeing Mrs. Weintraub’s house and taking a walk to the lake about a half mile away. Seeing the water and the open fields reminded me of the Vineyard.

My favorite town was Galway, a beautiful modern city with much culture. During the day there are hundreds, if not thousands of people walking in the heart of the city, and it’s all pedestrian friendly. There were people singing and playing instruments, and artists painting portraits. I found a spot right on the river where the teen population meets, a wonderful time. The city is so beautiful that it blew my mind and inspired me to want to own a house there someday.

The trip was an experience I will never forget, definitely life-changing and I know that I’ll be back. I would like to thank Mrs. Weintraub on behalf of all my classmates for all that she has done, because without her none of this would have been possible.

Troy Small was 2007-2008 editor of Sophomores Speak Out.

I’d Do It Again

By Jordan Cloherty>

The trip was an incredible opportunity and an amazing experience. The weather was gorgeous and warmer than I expected. One minute it rains and the next the sun comes out and there isn’t a cloud in the sky. I loved the many castles and prehistoric features of Ireland. My favorite town was Killarney because the shops were near our hotel. The trip was like no other and the group of people I traveled with made it even better. I would do it all over again tomorrow!

Finest Place of All

By Mike Kendall>        

I have traveled Europe. I was lucky enough to attend West Tisbury in grade school and go on the English exchange trip in eighth grade. With my family I’ve been lucky enough to travel to France, Italy, Spain, and Croatia, but I had never seen a country as green as Ireland. The endless fields and bogs of green were breathtaking. The most memorable half hour was spent wandering around the bogs near the northern coast in Mayo. (Cide Fields, Ballycastle). The trip was a blast and gave me a whole new understanding of Ireland.

Real Learning

By Kyle Mercaldo

The Irish culture, scenery, and history was unbelievable. We were able to experience everything from the gorgeous views from the cliffs of Moher and Achill Island to the Kilmainham jail and the ruins of the famine houses.

I also thought it was amazing how much open land there was, unlike in America, and the size of the homes was mainly small and quaint. We were able to learn much about Irish history and culture; it’s much different being able to climb up the castle and kiss the blarney stone than to just hear about the story of its good luck in class. The jail was also a historic place; the museum and tour there really taught us a lot about how hard life was in Ireland back then.

Learning about how life was for my Irish ancestors and so many others was so real. I can’t wait until I can make it back to Ireland.

Irish Memories

By Andora Aquino>

It was a pretty small group of 17 students and everyone got along.

From Shannon Airport, we went to the Aillwee Caves, stunning with creations carved from limestone by waters from a prehistoric age. We then went to the cliffs of Moher, rocky cliffs that rise nearly 700 feet above the Atlantic Ocean. We finally made our way to Killarney where we had free time to roam the city. Everything was quaint. The sidewalks were cobblestone and the streets were impeccably clean. It didn’t seem like a city. The shops were small and the people were very nice.

The second day was my favorite of the trip. We went to the donkey sanctuary, established in 1969, that has saved 12,000 donkeys. We also went to Blarney Castle to kiss the famous Stone of Eloquence. The following day we were on our way to Dunboyne Castle where we stayed and had to hurry to get ready for the theatre. We visited the famous Kilmainham Jail, took seaweed baths at Enniscrone and watched a gaelic football game in Crossmolina where Mrs. Weintraub’s home town team played and won.

Life Changing

By Sarah Hall>

This trip made me want to travel around the world and it also made me appreciate where I come from.

I enjoyed the donkey sanctuary, where Mrs. Weintraub adopted the donkey Lorcan in honor of our class. We also saw many other animals; I have never seen so many cows and lambs in my life, they were all over the countryside. On one of the last days of the trip we went to Achill Island where there were dozens of lambs with their mothers. Phoebe and I tried to pet them but didn’t succeed. We got a second chance at Rathbaun Farm where not only did I pet plenty of the lambs, but got to bottle feed one, an unreal experience.

By the end of the trip we all walked away with a special bond that no one can ever replace. I will carry the memories with me for a lifetime.

Gift Of Eloquence

By Shikha Datta

Amazing. I saw places that I would never have imagined could exist. It is exactly what you think with the green hills with cows and lambs everywhere. When we got to our first stop, everyone was thinking, is this what we came to see? Some grass and rocks? But when we learned about the history and meaning of everything it amazed us. My favorite place was the Blarney Castle. Everyone had to lean over backwards to kiss the Blarney Stone in order to gain the gift of eloquence. My favorite city was Killarney.

My First Trip Outside The U.S.

By Melanie Krauss

This was my first time going to a new country. I saw so many beautiful places and I will never forget the vivid green Irish countryside. We got to see and taste a different culture, and see many old historic buildings.

At first I was a little nervous about traveling so far away from home, but now, looking back on the trip, I’m glad I was able to be a part of it.

On My Mind

By Lyle Vogel

Ireland was so much fun. My best friend, Tony Ice (the driver on our trip), is the man! The towns we visited were nice and the Irish girls were nicer. The culture is welcoming and warm, and everyone seems to have a great sense of humor. By far the best thing that happened was going to Kilmainham Jail where the Easter Rising martyrs were jailed and executed. Being in a place with so much history was an incredible experience.

So Much to See

By Forrest Harcourt

The whole experience of traveling off-Island is fun, but a trip out of the country makes everything that much better. Flying into Shannon was amazing. Looking out at the country from the air is something else! The culture is something I could definitely get used to. People are kind and friendly and the laid-back, slower-paced lifestyle is nice. I like how the country is leaning toward alternative energy and going toward the future even though there is so much from the past and so much history there. I liked driving down the west coast, but wish we had more time just to stop, relax and take it all in. There was so much to see.

Important Lessons

By Erin Morris

My family is Irish and I grew up with an interest in the country and the culture. When I traveled there, I realized that things were done differently. There is a culture of kindness and openness that you don’t see here. The beauty of the country and the history that is everywhere from the ruined castles in the middle of fields of cows to the games that are played taught me what being Irish is about. I would like to spend more time there as a college student and really connect with the culture of my ancestors.

Chaperone Reflections

For me, the trip was a chance to take part in something so worthwhile and educationally valuable and to appreciate the beauty of Ireland, making connections with my own roots on the Kerry-Cork border.

— Kerri O’Keeffe

Ireland for me was a transforming experience, one that changed my life.

— Mara Coleman

So many images of beauty and history but for me the kindness and warmth of the people was amazing. They are so open and take you into their lives and their world. I will never forget that.

— Wade Johnson

Ireland is so familiar to me that I forget how extraordinary it is until I see it again. How lucky I am to be able to share all of this with my students. I feel like I am sharing a special jewel that they would not otherwise get to see.

— Elaine Cawley Weintraub